Now in its fifth year, Fifties Art is preparing for an upcoming exhibition in The London Framers Gallery which will feature well known mid-century artist, John Piper. The exhibition will include over 80 original works, each with the distinctive and colourful style that the artist is known for.
Fifties Art founder, Richard Turkington turned his passion for 1950s art and design into an established art specialists over 5 years ago. Starting out by buying and selling art and ceramics at retro fairs, the online store now features over 300 items from British and international artists.
Richard gives us an insight into his Worcestershire based art specialists,
What first attracted you to mid century art?
It all began when I bought a watercolour from 1959 by Pery Monkman with the unpromising title ‘Railway Sidings, Bradford’. I was attracted to it because I was brought up in urban West Yorkshire and remembered such scenes but it also made me curious as to whether such ‘everyday’ subjects were typical of the time. I quickly found that there was no published or online source which could help by explaining art produced in the period, just scattered references or chapters. As a result, I decided to undertake my own research and to develop a collection of art from the mid-century period.
Which artist from this era stands out to you and why?
Without a doubt, John Piper’s work from this era, especially his work focused on buildings in the landscape. They stand out for their combination of realistic and abstract as can be seen in his fabric designs, paintings and printmaking. Piper had the ability to create art which stands on the margin between the two approaches, leaving us to do much of the interpreting of what’s before us.
What were the key changes in British art around this time – how does this translate into the work we see?
Art from this period needs to be seen as transitional, continuing traditions from the past such as the use of watercolour in landscape, but including innovation and experimentation in both technique and subject matter, for example, the revival of printmaking and a renewed focus on everyday life, but without the drama and radical change represented by abstract expressionism and pop art in the 1960s. There are also unintended changes such as the cost of inks resulting in a limited number of colours and a very restricted pallette in printmaking. Those who read children’s books from the 1950s will recognise this immediately.
What was the first piece of art you ever bought – how did it come about?
The first piece of art I bought was from a sale at Hutchinson’s Headrow Gallery in Leeds in the early 1970s, a very abstract and watery watercolour landscape by ‘Yolanda’, it disappeared years ago, and I never found anything out about the artist!
Has your taste changed over the years?
I’ve definitely moved towards the more abstract. I can’t help but think that my Yorkshire roots predisposed me towards the more realistic or representational, but I’ve come to appreciate how this can live comfortably with a more abstract approach.
The best advice you have been given as an art collector/enthusiast?
The best advice was simply this: “You have to pay to learn” which I took to mean that you’ve got to risk your money and buy to understand and appreciate artworks, even if it means buying the odd ‘turkey’, which I do.
Favorite place to spend time in Worcestershire?
I live on the boundary with Herefordshire and my favourite place is located there, the historic and picturesque half timbered and Georgian town of Ledbury which has transformed itself over the past 20 years from a fading market town to a vibrant centre for independent shops – especially for interior design, for galleries and festivals
Favourite place to spend time in London?
Anywhere on the south bank from Vauxhall to Tower Bridge, a great place for imagining and relaxing, with the many images in mind of its past life captured by centuries of art.
What can we expect from Fifties Art in the next few months?
A series of exhibitions on a range of themes from ‘London in Post-war Art’ to ‘When the Forties Met the Fifties’, the promotion of fifties art goes on!
Join Richard at The Framers Gallery, London from 10th – 15th September at the Fifties Art John Piper Exhibition. Spaces are available for the Private View by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org